walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

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Walkitout, as a white woman approaching middle age, obsesses about vegetables

Like most people (literally), I gained a lot of weight after college. Then I lost a bunch, regained a lot of it, and lost a bunch again. Throughout, I've been all about the maintenance. Which is hard, because I've eaten out in restaurants a lot, and that's Not Good for portion control. Boy is that an understatement.

A lot of my efforts have been directed to eating at home, which have been somewhat successful (filled out my application for the National Weight Control Registry a few days ago). But we (as a society) like to eat out for a lot of reasons, and it's very nice to be able to do so. Over the last (very few) years, some chains have started to supply both nutrition information and menu items that make it relatively easy to make relatively good food choices. The milk protein allergy, however, makes it a bit trickier for me than some other people. McDonald's salads, for example, are unorderable without the cheese (please prove me wrong on this. I want to be wrong on this.). Wendy's, however, has one that has no cheese by default (the inevitable oriental chicken, long a staple for me at other restaurants for the same reason). And there is always Subway.

Recently, Ruby Tuesday's got Nutrition Religion. I think the guy in charge had a bit of a brain wave, something like this: "I can completely cover my ass legally and collect a whole raft of new business by putting out a cleverly designed menu that enables people to pay attention to portions/calories/carbs/fat. As long as I don't force people to notice the numbers, the regulars will still order their fries and bacon cheeseburgers and we'll all live happily ever after". Reports suggest he got the added benefit of people ordering appetizers and desserts when they switched to smaller/cheaper entrees, keeping the ticket total level, or slightly increasing.

With this revelation, I took myself off to Ruby Tuesday's to analyze the menu. The big bummer: no sodium numbers. The good news, each category (appetizer, various categories of entrees, desserts) has at least one reasonable choice. The bad news, the dessert is a yogurt/blueberry item (no hope for me), and the soups also all have dairy in them (dang, but with no sodium transparency, I probably wouldn't care for them anyway). After ordering a roasted turkey wrap with salad (come on, what would be the point of fries with that?), I have to congratulate them. Not only did they design reasonable entries, their presentation (the paper wrap, dressing on the side, etc.) helps to prevent size creepage and resulting inaccuracy. The turkey is good -- not overly salty, thicker slices, quite possibly roasted in house, or at least they got a good source. It wasn't tremendously cheap, but I'd be happy to return to try other things (and there were other things I would be willing to try).

A few days earlier, we'd stopped for dinner at Margerita's after furniture shopping. With the cold finally gone, my insatiable desire for vegetables had returned and I wasn't hugely optimistic -- usually one is stuck with a taco salad when looking for veg at a Mexican restaurant. But they had a grilled chicken salad with grilled veg all over a huge pile of lettuce. I'm used to cooking vegetables and serving them over a starch -- it hadn't occurred to me to serve it over leafy greens (altho I recollect now that Yo Mama's does this also for their low carb options). Margerita's was careful not to wilt the greens, but when I tried it at home, I sauteed the veg and used the sauce to wilt the greens and liked it even better.

As various companies and organizations, governmental and otherwise, ratchet up the focus on obesity in America, I'm happy to report that even the stodgy restaurant industry is finally starting to realize that they might be able to make as much or more money serving veg as they have been serving excessive piles of fried potatoes and other starches. My legislators here in New Hampshire persist in succumbing to lobbyists who want to protect restauranteurs from lawsuits. But I don't think there's any way to protect their business when better options become available elsewhere. It's nice to see at least a few people in the biz are starting to agree with me.

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